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Advocates call on state lawmakers to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates

Delaware home health care agencies are calling on state lawmakers to raise Medicaid rates to help with a nursing shortage.

There’s a shortage of nurses in Delaware and across the U.S.

But home care agencies say the First State’s low Medicaid reimbursement is contributing to lack of skilled home nursing services here.

Brett Morris and his wife are both state workers. Morris’ 7-month-old son was born with a rare genetic disorder and requires 24-hour care. But Morris said he’s had to rely on sick and annual leave time donated by co-workers to stay home and care for his son because of the nursing shortage.

“Pretty much all of our weekend slots are still open," he said. "And my wife and I work rotating shift work, so we work 12-hour shifts and it’s not a Monday through Friday job, so we work on the weekends too.”

Medicaid reimbursement rates have stayed the same since 2006. Home health companies say that means skilled nurses are choosing to work for hospitals where the pay is better.

Patty Watson heads the pediatric division at BAYADA, a home care company with offices in Delaware. Watson said companies could raise hourly pay if the state increased the low Medicaid reimbursements.

“We’re not getting reimbursed appropriately to care for these children," she said. "So we can’t pay our nurses what they deserve to make.”

Watson said nurses in hospitals can make $15-to-$30 dollars more an hour than with home care agencies.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows the average wage for Delaware nurses in home health care services is $35.18 an hour.

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